Rome (Italy). On 17 February at the Press Office of the Holy See, the Press Conference was held to present the Message of the Holy Father for Lent 2023, which will begin on 22 February, Ash Wednesday entitled:
“Lenten ascesis, synodal itinerary”
With this Message, drawing on the Gospel passage of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Tabor (Mt 17: 1-8) proclaimed every year on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis invites us to “climb a high mountain” together with Jesus, to live with the Holy people of God a particular experience of asceticism.
In the text, the path of Christian asceticism is compared to asceticism towards the “apex”, “an uphill path, which requires effort, sacrifice and concentration, like a hike in the mountains”, which however in the end surprises and repays with the panorama contemplated with wonder from above. Jesus himself is the Way to follow as disciples of the one Teacher, and He wants “that experience of grace not to be solitary, but shared”. For this reason, the Lenten journey is “synodal“, accomplished as a Church, to “enter more and more deeply and fully in the mystery of Christ the Savior”.
The goal: “The Lenten ascetic journey and, similarly, the synodal one, both have a personal and ecclesial transfiguration as their goal. A transformation which, in both cases, finds its model in that of Jesus and is brought about by the grace of His paschal mystery”.
Two paths: to reach the goal, the Pope proposes two directions to follow. The first is listening to Jesus who speaks through the word of God offered by the liturgy and through the brothers and sisters in need of help. Pope Francis adds an aspect, “very important in the synodal process: listening to Christ also passes through listening to the brothers and sisters in the Church, that reciprocal listening which in some phases is the main objective but which in any case always remains indispensable in the method and style of a synodal Church”.
The second indication is that of “not taking refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events, evocative experiences, for fear of facing reality with its daily toils”. Lent, the Pope specifies, is oriented towards Easter and the “retreat” is not an end in itself, but prepares us to “be artisans of synodality in the ordinary life of our communities”.
In the Press Conference, Card. Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, underlined the aspect of beauty, rarely connected to Lent. A beauty that “comes from change, or rather from the effort to rethink oneself, from conversion.” A beauty that is “collective experience, intimate yes, but not private. In ecclesial language, it is a synodal experience”.
The concept of beauty is also taken up by Fr. Walter Magnoni, Responsible for the pastoral community of Madonna di Lourdes in Lecco and Professor of Social Ethics at the Faculty of Economics of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, who experiences the mountain as a spiritual place, “an experience of beauty that gives me energy and the desire to tell to everyone how in the silence of the mountains it is easier to ‘hear God’.”
Dr. Sandra Sarti President of Aid to the Church in Need (ACS) Italy, an organization that has been on the side of persecuted Christians since 1947, brought the testimony of working alongside brethren in the faith who suffer persecution, to walk the two paths indicated by the Pope to climb the Mount together with Jesus. “In recent days then, the faces and voices that cry out for help and ask for our attentive listening are those that emerge from the ruins of the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria”.
A novelty to better accompany the Lenten itinerary, is the itinerary in stages proposed by the Dicastery, following the inspiration of the Holy Father to experience Lenten asceticism as an excursion in the mountains: week after week, the contents will be relaunched in practical ways through downloadable materials, so that the reflection accompanies the communities to the top of the Mount, helping to “better understand God’s will and our mission at the service of His Kingdom”.
“The Holy Spirit encourages us in this Lent to ascend with Jesus, to experience His divine splendor and thus, strengthened in faith, continue the journey together with Him, glory of His people and light of the nations”.